Treasury Sec. Steven T. Mnuchin

The federal government is “in the second inning” of providing relief related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin said at a Saturday press conference.

More than 3,000 cases now have been confirmed in the United States, and the death toll is at least 61, with 25 of the deaths associated with the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, WA, according to NBC News.

Mnuchin’s baseball analogy came the day after President Trump declared a national emergency related to the virus, which he said would free up $50 billion in federal resources. The remark also came the day after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Mnuchin had helped negotiate the provisions of the House bill.

The legislation includes provisions for paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, food security initiatives and free and widespread testing, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). It had bipartisan support in the House, passing 363-40, with all those voting against it being Republicans.

At Saturday’s press conference, the president predicted that the Senate would pass the bill this week and that he would sign it. The legislation follows passage of a multibillion dollar emergency funding bill earlier this month, which Mnuchin said was the “first inning” of relief related to the virus. The federal government next will consider relief for industries financially affected by the virus, he said.

As the House considered the legislation on Friday, LeadingAge urged members of Congress to include:

  • Priority COVID-19 testing for aging services staff and residents, including mobile testing for those unable to leave a community;
  • Free and timely access for anyone requiring testing; priority access to personal protective equipment for home health workers, hospice workers, adult day and Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) employees, as well as service coordinators in Housing and Urban Development housing, nursing homes, assisted living communities and hospitals;
  • An increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for Medicaid to help with providing care for beneficiaries;
  • Support for at-risk older adults living in HUD-assisted senior housing, with supplemental financial assistance for housing providers to ensure resident safety and funding for emergency rental assistance for residents; and
  • Funding to support a service coordinator in every HUD Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly community to help residents navigate emergency response and preparedness and to access critical care and community resources.

Communities restrict visitors as more cases are reported

Even though a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ban on visitors to nursing homes, announced Friday, does not apply to most senior living communities, many have restricted visitors based on guidance from the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living or requirements from their state or local governments. Others are strongly discouraging visitors.

Several recent COVID-19 cases, in addition to ones previously reported, have involved senior living residents:

  • Two cases of COVID-19 were reported in Mercer Island, WA, on Thursday, one each involving residents of Sunrise of Mercer Island, a Sunrise Senior Living assisted living and memory care community and at Covenant Living at the Shores, a Covenant Living continuing care retirement community.
  • Covenant Living at Mount Miguel in La Presa, CA, said Friday that an employee not involved in the direct care of residents had tested positive.
  • At Bridge Park, a Holiday Retirement independent living community in Seattle, a resident received a positive test, it was reported Thursday.
  • Two presumptive cases are at OceanView at Falmouth, a senior living community in Maine, where the governor declared a state of civil emergency on Sunday.
  • One case was reported Friday in a resident of Van Mall, a Leisure Care independent and assisted living community in Vancouver, WA.
  • One resident of Showboat Retirement Center, an assisted living community in Lander, WY, reportedly was infected, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Saturday.
  • A second resident has tested positive at the Carlton Senior Living independent living, assisted living and memory care community in Elk Grove, CA. Last week, the Sacramento County health director had said that all residents of the community would be tested for the disease after a resident in her 90s with COVID-19 died while in the hospital. “As a result of this development, you will soon be receiving a public health order requiring all residents to stay in their apartments for the time being,” the company said in a post on its website.

HUD, Labor and the Senate act

In other COVID-19-related news:

  • HUD announced that it would postpone property inspections on all HUD-assisted multifamily and public housing, including senior housing, until further notice, except where there is a threat to life or property at a specific location.
  • The Labor Department publicized resources to help workers and employers prepare for COVID-19.
  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions plans a hearing Wednesday to discuss “How the U.S. Is Responding to COVID-19.” It’s the second part of a hearing; the first part was held March 3.
  • Louisiana said it is postponing its April 4 primary election until June 20, but Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio are still planning to hold theirs tomorrow. Polls in long-term care facilities in several states already had been relocated.